Vietnam deploys troops to enforce Covid-19 lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City has recorded a total of 176,000 Covid-19 infections and 6,670 deaths. PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI (REUTERS) - Vietnamese soldiers on Monday (Aug 23) were deployed on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to help enforce a lockdown in the country's business hub, which has become the epicentre of its worst coronavirus outbreak so far during the pandemic.

Panic-buying broke out at supermarkets in the city of nine million people over the weekend ahead of the tighter lockdown, which started on Monday and prohibits residents from leaving their homes.

Vietnam's toughest order yet comes amid a spike in fatalities and infections.

Soldiers on Monday were checking permits of residents on the streets and delivering food, according to witnesses and photographs on state media.

The city began movement restrictions early last month, but infections have continued to surge after authorities said there had not been strict enough enforcement of the curbs.

The city has recorded a total of 176,000 Covid-19 infections and 6,670 deaths, accounting for half of the South-east Asian country's overall cases and 80 per cent of fatalities, according to the health ministry.

Vietnam has over the recent weeks sent 14,600 additional doctors and nurses to the city and its neighbouring provinces to support its overwhelmed medical system, the ministry said.

Patients with mild or no symptoms have been told to self isolate at home.

People in the city's Phu Nhuan and Go Vap districts told Reuters they had received packages of rice, meat, fish and vegetables.

The government announced on Friday it would send 130,000 tonnes of rice from state stockpiles to Ho Chi Minh City and 23 other cities and provinces.

After managing to contain Covid-19 for much of last year, Vietnam has so far recorded 348,000 infections and at least 8,277 fatalities, with the majority recorded in the current Delta-driven outbreak since late April.

Around 1.8 million of 98 million people, or 1.8 per cent of the country's population, have been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the region.

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